Free E-books for Secondary Teachers!

Four TpT sellers, Literary Sherri, Brain Waves Instructions and Getting Nerdy with Mel and Gerdy, teamed up recently to create three Ebooks for teachers and they are amazing-and free!  Each one introduces teachers to twenty-five TpT sellers in their subject area, and offers them printable resources that can be used tomorrow.  They are a fabulous resource and a wonderful gift for secondary teachers. Check them out–you might see some familiar faces from Cross Curricular Corner!


The first one was created by Literary Sherri for humanities teachers.  The second one, for ELA teachers, was compiled by Brain Waves Instruction.  And finally, Getting Nerdy with Mel and Gerdy put together one for math and science.   Click on the images to get the ebook.   Enjoy!

Sunday Panel: Digital Natives and Issues with Longer Texts

Sunday Panel StickyDo you find that our digital natives are less likely to want to read longer texts?  What strategies do you use to get them to focus?

profile pic2Tara, Science in the City:I definitely see a shift. Students have often had trouble focusing, but I think it is an increasing problem.

I don’t have a great answer, but some strategies that I try to utilize are: chunking the text, reading with a partner, annotating as you read, or giving questions for focus as you read. These seem to help break up the task a bit and keep students focused.

EllenBrain7 (1)Ellen Weber:My students dislike reading either digital or hard copy when a text lacks relevancy to their lives or interests. The opposite is also true. They enjoy reading texts that challenge both their intellect and emotions, in ways that seem meaningful to them. That’s why I encourage both. To extend text into action though, I ask two-footed questions.

One foot asks: What are the main points, functions or problems? – which invite students to consider, compare or analyze content. The answers to one-footed questions provide facts to engage, but fail to engage the learner’s interest to apply innovations that draw on these facts.

Foot two asks: … how will these facts jumpstart your own actions? You could say that the second foot jump starts adventure. For example, I might start a lesson by naming a key action of a main character and then ask students, “What would you have done differently and why so?” That question gets the most reluctant readers into digital or hard copy passages in ways that challenge them personally to make a difference. It’s simply a matter of offering an opportunity to play with, What if possibilities, that woo readers into more relevancy.


CDickson Profile PicClair, High School English on a Shoestring Budget: I do think attention span is an issue, possibly because of my students’ time reading bits and bytes in digital formats.  There were two strategies I found in my classroom that were most successful at keeping students’ attention through the text. The first was reading questions that included a variety of questions from basic recall (often of key information for later– some caught on to this!) as well as analysis and inference.  The other was reading the texts to my students.  I read to them, partly because we had a single set of classroom texts and did not give homework (as it never came back.)  It also allowed me to reach my auditory learners well, and it seemed either I had quite a few auditory learners and/ or they just enjoyed me reading to them as the vast majority appreciated being read to (and the remainder never complained.)  I did not assign readers, though, just handle it myself.  Which also allowed me to stop the text at various points and ask questions, point things out, and otherwise discuss with them as we read.  Using the reading questions while I read allowed also ensured no one was “listening’ with their eyes closed.  While this may not work for every text in every class, I do think there is value in selecting certain texts to read aloud to the class, stopping to discuss and/ or using reading questions while they just listen.

TPT ProfileSara, Ms. Fuller’s Teaching Adventures:I’m not entirely convinced the lack of interest in longer texts is related to digital issues or all that different than it was in the past. Students just don’t like reading what they “have” to read and they don’t like having to take a lot of steps to accomplish something.

I have found, however, that the more engaged with a topic the students are, the more likely they are to actually read it. I try to find relevant topics for my students to read about. I do, of course, also go over reading strategies to help them navigate difficult texts.

black T logoJackie, Room 213:  I find that regardless of interest, they are less able to concentrate.  I’m less able to concentrate on long texts than I once was, before all of the distractions of the Internet, phones and tablets came along.  I find that I can no longer sit and read for hours without checking my email or looking up something that I wonder about while reading.  Now that doesn’t mean that focus and concentration is not an important skill, but we just need to be aware that most of our students are not as good at it as we were at the same age.

One thing I’ve done to try to adapt to these digital natives is to use a class website that hosts notes and extra information on whatever it is we are studying.  They are more likely to read the notes on their screens than a handout that has no pictures or hyperlinks.   I also post short and engaging articles for them to read and respond to on our blog.  They like to discuss the issues with each other in this format so it’s a great addition to what we are already doing in class.

Reading in Math: Deliberate Shifts

“Reading across the curriculum” is not some new kid in town. He’s a pretty established face even if he hasn’t always demanded center stage. I took a couple Teaching Reading classes to become a math teacher. How about you? That was at least ten years ago. Then, workshops and math/reading coaches pushed reading fictional texts with mathematical connections to students. Yes, I bought my copy of The Number Devil, and I read aloud a chapter to my 8th grade, non-interested math class. I had been told reading aloud would mesmerize even the toughest crowd. Despite the ingenious plot line, my students didn’t seem affected by the magic.
My experience: A large amount of time invested for little mathematical return.
At some point I am responsible for teaching math standards in a certain order. A novelist’s “pacing guide” is dictated by a compelling story– not quite the pacing guide that I’ve had dictated to me. The Number Devil still rests in a visible place on my “enrichment” shelf but admittedly is sorely neglected.

Thankfully, the new elevation of non-fiction texts by the Common Core Standards has changed the image of “reading in math” (at least in my area). “Decoding” is a new buzz word.
My new experience: A modest time investment is now producing more critical mathematical thinking. However, incorporating more reading strategies in teaching math requires deliberate shifts rather than drastic change.

Here’s one deliberate shift:
A typical math slide or excerpt from any math text                                       New slide
Where are the examples? Is the teacher unprepared?
Students are challenged, “After you finish writing, I want you to generate an example or non-example based on your reading of the key concept.”

Another small shift
(A conversation in my Algebra classroom from last week)
What does the title, “Simplifying Rational Expressions,” tell you before we go any farther?
(student response)
Simplifying- What is the base word?
Rational – Do you see the word ratio in there? What is a ratio? Give me an example of a ratio? Think “fractions” when you see the word “rational.”Exponential Expressions Practice Guide
Expressions – What’s the difference between expressions and equations?
Let’s string it altogether. Who can put this title in their own words?
(Revealing of first example) Does this first example match your understanding?

Whoa! Modest time investment? That was only the title! Yes, but it’s only the first few weeks of school.
They get better. They speed up. Their minds get the hang of naturally decoding math terms and steering their owner in the right direction. Given the privilege of teaching the same kids 85 minutes a day for 180 days, I love seeing the long term effect on students. Perhaps, if I hadn’t abandoned “The Number Devil” after that first fateful chapter, the same would have been true.

AlgebraSimplifiedIconDawn is a secondary Algebra teacher in Maryland with a B.S. in Secondary Mathematics Education and a Masters in Information Science and Learning Technologies.
Full Bio

Sunday Panel

Sunday Panel StickyHow do you use different types of reading (prose, poetry, informational text, charts, tables and graphics, etc.) in your classroom?

profile pic2Tara, Science in the City:  I am a science teacher, so using charts and graphs is easy. The often come up in student work, textbooks, and past exam questions. I also try to integrate news articles (especially from, and text/review book readings as sources of information for students. Finally, I have had students create songs or poems to show their knowledge on a topic (the water cycle, types of macromolecules, etc). They get really into this project, and get to show their creativity, and practice writing.

EllenBrain7 (1)Ellen Weber:  One way I use informational text in upper classes includes stoking students’ insights for innovative initiatives. We move from what we know to know we create or initiate. For instance, in a text titled Fall Bounty – a Harvest for the Mind, students gather and share stored wisdom into a harvest gala.

Students select mental nourishment insights from dozens of quotes and then write an essay of 300 to 500 words, to describe how to store related ideas that prepare themselves and their peers for mentally challenging seasons. In this case, we share insights related to their informational text, in a fall harvest celebration and an illustrated bulletin board where each contribute a harvest image.

CDickson Profile Pic

Clair, High School English on a Shoestring Budget:  In English, it’s easy to (just) include poetry and prose. But I also challenge myself to bring in maps or use graphic organizers that are charts or tables. For Frankenstein, I’ve had students plot the locations on a map or Europe. For Call of the Wild, I’ve shown maps of the dog sled routes as well as information on the temperatures. The challenge, I think, in English is thinking beyond prose (whether it’s fiction or nonfiction) and using other tools to show how these tools are useful in all subjects. Even the first part of the Movie vs. Book comparison is to fill in the table with similarities and differences.

TPT ProfileSara, Ms. Fuller’s Teaching Adventures: As an English teacher I use them all the time. Currently my first year college writing students are using non-fiction argumentative articles from the New York Times to write summary and response papers. I like to try to find current articles about various topics to keep them engaged.

Even in these writing courses though I like to throw in poetry I find to practice annotating and close reading!

black T logo

Jackie, Room 213:  I try to spend a little time each semester talking to students about how they read their screens.  Reading on a computer adds a whole new distracting dimension, with ads, hyperlinks, etc.  Reading is not so straightforward on the Net, and when we get sent on a new path with a hyperlink, our reading comprehension goes down.  That’s ok when you’re reading for pleasure, but if you do need to read for comprehension, then you need to develop strategies to deal with all of the noise and clutter on your screen.  So, I show students examples of link-studded informational text that they may be using for research, or an article they have to read for class discussion.  We talk about the difference between a link that might be useful as they read (one that offers background info or a definition) and ones that can be left until the end.  It’s not easy to teach our digital natives reading patience and focus, but I think it’s a skill we need to pass on!

Join the discussion–leave your thoughts and ideas in the comments.

Kim, the OCBeach Teacher’s Educator Journey

A little bit about Kim@OCBeachTeacher and her journey as an educator! 

Grades and subjects currently or most recently taught?

American Literature (11th grade) & AP English Literature and Composition (12th grade)


This photo (also published in the local paper) shows me this past spring with students in my club, Kids Against Animal Abuse and Testing (K.A.A.A.T). In a contest that we sponsored at our high school, we collected over 800 pounds of pet food to donate to our local humane society. .

What started you on the journey to become a teacher/ educator?

Originally I received my B.S. in journalism, so I didn’t plan to become a teacher until a couple of years after my undergraduate studies. I worked as an assistant in the guidance office of a local high school and loved helping students. I especially liked being involved with sponsoring educational assemblies. As a result of my work there, I decided to pursue my M.Ed.


Anything else that has made your journey special or noteworthy?

A memorable experience occurred during my sixth year of teaching. In February of 2003, I was involved in a life-threatening car accident on my way to work. The road where the accident happened is a frequently traveled single-lane highway used by students, families, and employees of our school system. Shockingly, on that highway, the fatality rate is 300 percent higher than our state’s average.

Shortly after the accident, I supported a local high school student’s efforts to create Kids Requesting Action for Safer Highways (KRASH II). I facilitated his efforts and empowered interested students by coaching them to speak at a forum with local and state government officials. Furthermore, I helped other concerned students write and send letters to elected officials.

In response to efforts from KRASH II, funds were made available to complete the dualization of the highway, and construction began in 2005 (it’s almost completed now). In a county where 82 busses travel 7,596 miles per day, I know that I have contributed to the safer journeys of students and community members. I used my car accident as a “teachable moment.


What special thing do you do for your students?

Late in 2007, I earned my National Board Certification in English Language Arts/Adolescence and Young Adulthood. The process was both challenging and nerve-racking, but I benefited from continually reflecting on my instructional practices. It definitely improved my teaching and has given me confidence in my professional decisions.

I have also worked as a teacher consultant with the Eastern Shore Writing Project (ESWP), an affiliate of the National Writing Project, since 2006. I have been an instructor at writing camps sponsored by the ESWP for many years. Additionally, I have provided professional development at regional conferences and worked as part of a professional learning community with them.



OC_BEACH_TEACHER_revised_finalKim, the OCBeach Teacher,  is a National Board Certified English teacher who is currently teaching American Literature and AP English Literature and Composition.  She shares classroom ideas and tips on her OCBeachTeacher Facebook Page.
Full Bio

Tool for Reading Informational Text

As we all move toward Common Core, there is more emphasis, in all content areas, on informational text and non-fiction reading.

The problem is, many students are not experienced with this type of reading, and struggle with strategies to use to help them pull meaning from the text.  Students are better at reading fiction, but need a different skill set to pull out key facts from non-fiction, or even science or social studies texts.

In the ELA Common Core Standards are many references in to reading and writing informational text, writing and following procedures, drawing conclusions, supporting with evidence, etc.  One area that I think we struggle as teachers, and may not reach our full common core potential is in terms of reading strategies.  (CCCS on reading informational text (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI). We expect kids to be able to read, or we find alternative ways around it, such as notes, hands-on, demos, videos.  We do need to teach reading strategies, even though we are not reading teachers.

This is something that I work on a lot in my classroom because the district I work in historically has students with very low reading levels.  Along with this, I have always taught courses ending in a state exam, where the reading level is at or slightly above grade level.  This is not a good combination.  Reading level is the biggest predictor of how they do on the exam.  (a topic for another day).

Anyway, one strategy I use for reading out of a textbook is this freebie available at my store.  It is really a scaffold to teach a good strategy for reading a textbook.  It includes what to do before reading the chapter (previewing), what to do during (vocabulary, looking at text features, recording new information and connecting it to what is already known) and after (questions you still have and reflection on what you learned).

tara bookIt is in a format that kids can readily fill in and understand.  This has been very popular with our ELL and SPED teachers and students, and used for students in grades 7-10 with very good results. If you use it, let me know what you think in the comments.  If you have suggestions or other strategies you use, let me know that too!



profile pic2

Tara is a science teacher from upstate NY. She has taught General Science, Biology, Environmental Science, and Earth Science.
Full Bio

Reading Across the Curriculum from English to History and Back

ChainsI think it is important for teachers from various subject areas to collaborate on ways to include reading into their classes. I personally, would love to work with a history teacher and have my students in English class read a historical fiction novel. Then, in history have the students analyze how factual it is.

But, even if I can’t collaborate with another teacher, I like to either require or encourage my students to read historical fiction. There are many very well researched books out there that will help students learn more about a topic. By putting the information into a story format it often allows students to relate to the characters more and be inspired to seek out more information.

Obviously, non-fiction options are great too. All of my students seem to respond well to memoirs. They love Anne Frank’s Diary, and Night.

Here are some of my favorite books that encourage an interest in history for grades 6-12:

Historical Fiction:

Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson and the rest of her historical fiction

Fire on the Rock by Sharon Draper

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Weinpersepolis

Waiting for the Rain by Shiela Gordon

The Watsons Go to Birmingham by Christopher Curtis


Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

Night by Elie Wiesel

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi

What are your favorites? Do you know of books that easily tie in math or science? I’d love to broaden my knowledge base about those!

TPT ProfileSara Fuller is a 5 year veteran English teacher with an MA in literature who has experience teaching students ranging from the middle school to college level. She blogs about her teaching adventures at Ms. F’s Teaching Adventures and young adult books at YA Lit, the Good, the Bad, the Ugly!
Full Bio